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Posted on Dec 24, 2013 | 8 comments

Christmas Traditions Around the World

Christmas Traditions Around the World

All around the world, Christmas celebrations reflect local culture and traditions. Probably the most celebrated holiday in the world, Christmas traditions around the world can be quite different from country to country. Whether you are awaiting Pere Noel in France or celebrating Sheng Dan Jieh in China, Christmas has become a fusion of hundreds of years of traditions that are celebrated around the globe.  

Kimmy & Drew of AfterGlobe

Christmas Traditions of United States

Every year to decorate for Christmas in Portland, Oregon we put up lights outside on our house, decorate our live Christmas tree with blown glass ornaments, and hang a wreath, lights, and stockings by the fireplace. On Christmas Eve, we all get a new pair of pajamas. Christmas morning we open our stockings that have been filled with gifts by Santa while enjoying hot chocolate and listening to the Jackson 5 Christmas album. Our day wraps up with an afternoon meal featuring foods made to look like Christmas trees and other seasonal representations that we share with friends and family.

Christmas Traditions Around the World

Christmas wreath made of olives, mozzarella balls, artichoke hearts, and radishes on a bed of fresh herbs from the garden.

Christmas Traditions Around the World

Veggie Christmas Tree.

Christmas Traditions of Denmark

Danish children believe that the Juul Nisse elves live in the attics of their homes. Instead of leaving out cookies and glasses of milk for Santa, they leave rice pudding and saucers of milk out for the elves.

Christmas Traditions of India

Everyone decorates their homes with strings of mango leaves. Lights are placed on the window sills and walls with a star hung outside.

Christmas Traditions of Japan

In Japan, they are crazy about Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas. They place orders months in advance to avoid waiting in line for hours to make sure they will have their KFC on Christmas Day. The traditional Christmas meal consists of a Christmas chicken with cake and champagne.

Meagan of Life Outside of Texas

Christmas Traditions of South Korea

I moved to Korea almost 3 years ago and learned that Christmas isn’t really celebrated by families here, instead it’s a holiday for couples. One of my favorite things about Christmas in Korea is the Busan Christmas Tree Festival. My girlfriends and I spent Christmas Eve there in 2011. You wouldn’t believe how packed it was! It was the first time it really felt like Christmas. There were tons of lights, a giant tree and even fake snow.

Follow Meagan’s journey over at Life Outside of Texas, on Facebook and Twitter.

Christmas Traditions Around the World

Christmas in Korea. Photo provided by Life Outside of Texas.

Christmas Traditions of Australia

The most popular event of Australia’s Christmas season is when people come together at night to light candles and sing Christmas carols outside for Carols by Candlelight.

Christmas Traditions of Mexico

Family members cut intricate designs in brown paper bags to make farolitos lanterns. They place a candle inside and then set the farolitos along sidewalks, on windowsills, and on rooftops and outdoor walls to illuminate the community with the spirit of Christmas.

Christmas Traditions of Ethiopia

Everyone dresses in white. Most Ethiopians don a traditional shamma — a thin, white cotton wrap with brightly colored stripes.

Jessica of Suitcases and Sippy Cups

Christmas Traditions of Netherlands

One of the reasons that we travel so extensively with our children is to help them to understand the customs of other places in the world. Learning the traditions of other countries with the backdrop of Christmas is another sneaky way that we can teach them to understand the cultures of other lands. Each year we learn about and celebrate a new country’s Christmas celebration, and sometimes we enjoy the tradition so much that we repeat it year after year. That is how we came to celebrate the Dutch version of St. Nicholas Day. On December 5th, we eat tradition Dutch sweets and play games that involve clues and scavenger hunts to find little gifts around the house. The favorite tradition, though, is leaving shoes outside the bedroom door to be filled with treats while they sleep.

Jessica blogs about her adventures traveling near and far with four boys at Suitcases and Sippy Cups. Follow their adventures on Facebook.

Christmas Traditions Around the World

Christmas in the Netherlands. Photo provided by Suitcases and Sippy Cups.

Christmas Traditions of France

The French enjoy an abundant feast of wonderful dishes, ending with the traditional buche de Noel, a rich buttercream-filled cake shaped and frosted to look like a Yule Log.

Christmas Traditions of Germany

Four Sundays before Christmas, German families make an Advent wreath of fir or pine branches that has four colored candles. They light one candle on the wreath each Sunday, sing Christmas songs, and eat Christmas cookies.

Christmas Traditions of China

Paper lanterns are hung outside of homes, while red pagodas are cut from paper and pasted on windows.

Eva of Passports and Pamplemousse

Christmas Traditions of Switzerland

On December 5th, the eve of Samichlaus (Swiss Santa, or St. Nicholas) (December 6th) something truly wonderful happens in the quaint little town of Küssnacht. First a loud boom, and then every single little (and big) light in town goes out. In complete silence, thousands of people anxiously await. And then it starts. In the distance, little lights start to twinkle. As they come closer, you realize the lights are beaming through huge, ornate lanterns (which look like a cross between a Bishop’s hat and a stained glass church window) some of which are 6 feet tall, and carried on the shoulders of hundreds of men. After the light, comes the noise. A brass band with hundreds of marching men in peculiar hooded white robes with red silk scarves carrying gigantic cowbells across the front of their waist, followed by hundreds more men all blowing cow horns. Two short, and one long blow. In unison. Like clockwork.

Somewhere in between the lantern light and noise is Samichlaus with his accomplice, Schmutzli (helper of Father Christmas).

Follow Eva’s journey over at Passports and Pamplemousse and on Facebook.

Video provided by Passports and Pamplemousse.

Christmas Traditions of Italy

During the holiday season, Italian Christmas fairs feature fireworks and bonfires along with holiday music for all to enjoy.

Christmas Traditions of England

English children write a letter to Father Christmas with their wishes for the holiday. They toss their letter into the fire so their wishes can go up the chimney to him.

No matter where you are on this planet or how you celebrate the holiday, you are sharing in the wonder and magic of Christmas traditions around the world. We wish you a very Happy Christmas from AfterGlobe.

What unique Christmas traditions do you celebrate in your part of the world?

All photography by Kimmy Hayes © 2013, unless otherwise noted.

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About Kimmy Hayes


Kimmy Hayes is the founder and editor-in-chief of AfterGlobe; a site on becoming debt free and traveling the world as a married couple. In 2012, she planned and coordinated her own do-it-yourself destination wedding on the beautiful island of Maui while serving as a moderator for the on-line community, The Knot. She is passionate about traveling to experience new cultures, snorkeling the waters of the world and reading with her toes in the sand.

8 Comments

  1. Fascinating!! Do they really queue up for Christmas KFC in Japan??! That’s so intriguing!

  2. I’ve lived in Italy for nearly 5 years now and this is my 5th Christmas here. There are no “Christmas” traditions on December 25th because Italians are very religious and this day is simply about the birth of Christ and time with family.

    Instead, Epiphany is when celebrations occur. On the eve of Epiphany huge bonfires are lit to burn the calamities of the previous year. Witch called Le Befana brings gifts for good children. And this is when there are fireworks.
    Jennifer recently posted…Central Park Under SnowMy Profile

    • I love that one, Travel with Pedro. I’d go as far as to say it’s my favorite and even though I don’t ever eat at KFC, I now want to do this.
      Kimmy Hayes recently posted…A day in Kapaa KauaiMy Profile

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